No Pain, No Gain: A week is a long time in the world of share dealing

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The Independent Online

One of Harold Wilson's more enduring utterances was that a week was a long time in politics. What the former prime minister omitted to mention was those seven days could also be a long time in many other walks of life, including one for which he had little sympathy, the stock market.

One of Harold Wilson's more enduring utterances was that a week was a long time in politics. What the former prime minister omitted to mention was those seven days could also be a long time in many other walks of life, including one for which he had little sympathy, the stock market.

Only a week or so ago the No Pain, No Gain portfolio was looking remarkably healthy. The Footsie seemed to be striding towards 4,600 points with the stock market looking comfortable and confident. I was tempted to conduct a portfolio review but decided to hold back until this week because I wanted to write about ASOS, the online retailer, and two other shares.

But it now transpires I have not picked a particularly favourable time to calculate the portfolio's performance. Indeed, to invoke a stock market adage, delay has meant dismay. The portfolio, although still comfortably in the black, has lost some of its exuberance. With world stock markets, at the time of writing, under the combined influences of higher interest rates and soaring oil prices, as well as the deteriorating situation in Iraq, a setback was inevitable. In the event it is not too bad, although any investment decline is disappointing. I calculate that the portfolio has lost around £2,000 since my last review and probably double that amount since the Footsie hit a year's high towards the end of last month.

I remain confident that shares will resume their revival. Blips are not unusual. Indeed they merely test the resilience of the average investor. It is foolhardy to panic when stock markets experience their inevitable shudders.

Three constituents are in the red. Stagecoach, the bus and train group has, for no apparent reason, found a reverse gear and is showing a loss. Online risk consultancy Wyatt, as investors grow tired of waiting for the signalled deal, has given further ground, and seemingly perennial loss-maker, Profile Media, bumps along at 1.75p with firm signs it is on the recovery trail still awaited.

I am disappointed with MacLellan, the facilities management group. It produced impressive figures, and chairman Bob Morton, a serial investor with an astonishingly successful track record, has increased his stake. But the shares, although just above my buying price, remain subdued in what is an extremely buoyant sector. Scottish & Newcastle is another constituent nursing only a modest gain. Britain's last major brewer continues to re-organise its UK operations but there is not much chance any significant improvement will filter quickly through to the bottom line. I regard the shares as a weak hold; certainly I would not buy them on trading grounds. Still there is always the possibility of a bidder materialising as the global beer behemoths continue to consolidate.

As I have said on many occasions it is never wrong to take a profit. And I would suggest any investors who followed the portfolio into its high-flyers should consider selling at least half their shareholdings. By locking in some of their profits they can experience a free ride on the back of their remaining interests.

Certainly such shares as Galliford Try, the builder, Glisten, the chocolate group, and Merrydown, the cider maker now getting much of its income from the Shloer range of adult soft drinks, have made such heady progress that I would regard them as having moved outside my buying range. They are, however, worth holding although I could be tempted to sell Galliford and Glisten.

Indeed I still remain unconvinced about prospects for Galliford's shares and intend to sell them if they should dip to 50p. I must confess they have performed much better in recent months than I expected. Indeed I was prepared to sell at 40p; thankfully I avoided throwing hard-earned investment money away.

My two most recent recruits, DataCash and Printing.com (an Ofex share) have made modest progress. DataCash had an encouraging run following my tip but the price has since been pulled back by, I believe, some selling by one of the bigger shareholders. Hopefully the unloading is now behind us.

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